Henrietta Lacks is known as “immortal” for a reason—though she died of cervical cancer in 1951, scientists have used her extraordinary cells countless times since. But the initial cells that started the immortal HeLa cell line were taken from Lacks without her consent or the knowledge of her family. Now, reports Andrea K. McDaniels for the Baltimore Sun, Lacks’ family is demanding compensation from the university who first took the cells.
HeLa cells, which never stop dividing, have played a part in some of the most significant modern medical discoveries. Her cells “went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity [and] helped with some of the most important advances in medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization,” writes Rebecca Skloot in her best-selling…
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